Charlottesville won three of the four quarters in its Holiday Classic semifinal with Western Albemarle in Crozet. But the third quarter was simply devastating and it was the Warriors that won it, decisively. Thanks to a huge run out of the break, Western erased an 11-point deficit in the third and then went into the fourth up by double digits. And while Charlottesville fought back in the fourth to make things interesting both early and late in that frame, the damage from the third was done and the hosting Warriors were able to pick up a 68-61 win to advance to face Landon in the championship game Saturday.
“We talked about it at halftime, some mistakes that we had made and so I thought we really turned the energy level up in the third quarter,” said Western coach Darren Maynard. “We corrected the mistakes and started getting tougher at the basket, we weren’t very tough in the first half. So yeah, man, turning it around, I mean I don’t know that we could have played better than we did in that third quarter. I was really happy with that.”
Down by eight to start the third quarter, Western started its run after Charlottesville’s Jacob Bowling hit a 3-pointer to make it an 11-point hole. Then it was Tommy Mangrum’s play inside and pair of 3-pointers from Gabe Nafzinger that started what was a 13-0 run. A steal and fast break finish from Riley Prichard gave Western its first lead of the second half at 37-35. Nafzinger hit another 3-pointer, a pair of free throws and Mangrum came up with a put-back to make it 44-37. The Warriors wound up taking the third by a margin of 24-7 to go into the fourth up 48-39.
“We just came out flat in the third, it was like we were playing as though we had already won the game and I just don’t understand it,” said Black Knights coach Mitch Minor. “We didn’t play with the type of intensity that we normally do. We came back in the fourth quarter but it still wasn’t the same and maybe if it was, it’s a different story. We were just too flat in that third quarter.”
In the fourth, Western went to work at the free throw line while Charlottesville leaned on Isaiah Washington to mount a comeback with his dribbling and driving. The Black Knights got to within three points of the lead at 48-45 but the Warriors answered with more from Mangrum and then a big 3-pointer from Eli Yordy with 3:56 to go to make it an 8-point game again. Mangrum almost single handedly put Western up 60-49, but with free throws from Washington and Zymir Fauklner and another Bowling 3-pointer, Charlottesville cuts things to 66-61 with 34 seconds on the clock. Western got a pair of free throws from Yordy to put the game out of reach and wrap up the scoring though at 68-61 to avenge a narrow loss to the longtime rivals just two weeks ago.
“Last time we played (them) hard enough we felt like but just didn’t execute down the stretch,” Mangrum said. “This time we got the effort and the execution. We put it all together and it turned out to be a win.”
The wild up-and-down pace of second half was a contrast to a first half that was largely half court sets run methodically in the first. Charlottesville built a 12-7 lead with two minutes to go in the first quarter, but the second quarter was peculiarly slow to start with just four points, a pair of field goals for both teams being the only offense for the first four minutes of play. Western tied things up at 20-20 with a deep jumper from Mangrum but a 10-2 run by Charlottesville led by a pair of 3-pointers from Bowling sent the Black Knights into the break up 30-22.
“In the first half we stepped back a bit and weren’t playing as hard as we were (against Kettle Run) last night,” Mangrum said. “I think in the second half we put it all together and finally started executing our offensive plays and started playing really good defense.”
On the night, Mangrum led all scorers and rebounders with 24 and 11 respectively. Nafzinger finished with 16 points despite facing second half foul trouble. Daniel Brown had eight points.
For Charlottesville, Bowling and Faulkner each had 14 points. Washington finished with 12 while Nick Motley and Lewis Tate both chipped in eight points.
The Black Knights will face West Potomac in the consolation game while the Warriors will face Landon in the title game. Both will be played at Charlottesville with the former kicking things off Saturday at 3:45 p.m. and the championship at 7:15 following the girls final sandwiched in between.